Biting the Hand That Feeds Them: Organizing Women on Welfare at the Grass Roots Level

By Jacqueline Pope | Go to book overview

2
The Nature of America's and New York City's Welfare Systems

SOCIAL WELFARE IN THE UNITED STATES

The social welfare issues that surfaced in the 1960s had their roots in the colonial era, especially in the English Poor Laws of 1601. No charitable trusts or welfare institutions existed in seventeenth-century America. Life was hard in the young cities and on the frontiers, leaving many colonists temporarily or permanently destitute--particularly those who had arrived nearly penniless. From the beginning, in the seventeenth century, the care of poor people had a threefold purpose: (1) providing succor to neighbors without means to obtain or maintain basic human necessities; (2) assisting individuals to regain or obtain employment; and (3) decreasing the threat of civil unrest. The first two responses by the predominantly middle and upper classes were encouraged by religious teachings and a sense of civic responsibility, and the last issue stemmed from political considerations. 1

The existence of a Poor Law in England and its subsequent adoption in America secured the individual's right to public assistance and acknowledged the government's obligation in that area. Still, its role was somewhat ambiguous between the

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Biting the Hand That Feeds Them: Organizing Women on Welfare at the Grass Roots Level
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Notes ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - The Background 1
  • Notes 7
  • 2 - The Nature of America's and New York City's Welfare Systems 9
  • Notes 30
  • 3 - Activists and Resources of a Movement 33
  • Notes 63
  • 4 - Organized Recipients Begin Challenging Social Institutions 67
  • Notes 80
  • 5 - The Brooklyn Welfare Action Council: Forty-Six Welfare Rights Member Groups 83
  • Notes 126
  • 6 - Summary, Findings, and Recommendations 131
  • Notes 144
  • Bibliography 147
  • Index 157
  • About the Author 162
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